This week, a man ordered a custom drink from Starbucks that rang in at $54 dollars an an effort to break the record for the most expensive drink ever ordered at Starbucks. The drink was built in a custom cup with all kinds of extra shots and syrups and may or may not have been delicious, since most stories focused on the price of the drink and not the flavor. It was an expensive drink to ring up – but the customer didn’t actually pay for it, since he used his “buy-12-get-one-fee” Starbucks Gold Card perk to buy it.
When you’re not trying to break a record, there are some “normal” drinks that can really break the bank at coffee shops – including, but not limited to, Starbucks – because they include more than a few extras. A large ice blended coffee drink with soy milk, an extra shot and extra chocolate/caramel syrup can easily be over $6. There are local shops in LA where you would pay over $8 for a well-dressed large iced coffee drink. And if you simply order premium brewed coffee – pour-over Kona or Aged Sumatra, for instance – you can potentially see these numbers without any add-ins at all. I’ll admit that I’ll pay over $5 a cup for quality Clover-brewed (or pour-over/siphon) coffee on a pretty regular basis, even though I know those cups can really add up.
How much have you paid for a delicious, customer coffee drink?
I was in Starbucks the other evening and the barista looked rather tired. I asked if he was feeling alright, and he said that he had been caught in a Frappuccino rush for the last hour and it was madness. It was an unusually cool April day in Los Angeles, but Frappuccinos never really go out of season here. In fact, Frappuccinos are one of the most ordered types of Starbucks drinks in Los Angeles in general.
The lovely map above (click to enlarge) shows the most popular Starbucks drinks from some major metropolitan areas across the country. The areas in blue all exhibit a distinct preference for cold beverages, whether blended or over ice, as they tend to have warm weather most of the year. The grey areas prefer hot drinks to cold ones. It’s interesting to see the trends, and I’d be even more interested to see more detailed maps with more specifics, too.
Where do you get your coffee in the morning? Depending on what region of the country you live in, your answer to this question might be very different from the next person. This Coffee Shop Geography Map (click to enlarge) shows the nearest coffee place among the popular coffee chains, within a 10-mile radius, all over the country. The map was put together by Flowing Data just to see where people like to get their coffee.
Starbucks was all over the country, of course, while some chains are regional – and those regional chains sometimes dominated the market in their local areas. Starbucks is strong in most major metro areas, but really dominates on the West coast. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a popular So Cal chain, is strong in the LA area, while Peet’s has a solid hold of the SF Bay Area and a few strong locations elsewhere on the West Coast. Dutch Bros dominates the North West. Seattle’s Best, which is owned by Starbucks, put up a good showing all over the country, even though it wasn’t the strongest in most markets. Tim Hortons had lots of fans along the US-Canada border and Caribou Coffee had a stronghold in the midwest, particularly around Minneapolis, where the company has its headquarters. It’s not surprising to see that the concentration of coffee shops mirrors the concentration of the population across the country. In the South West and North East, the density of coffee shops is much, much higher than it is in the plains states.
The Olympics are heavily sponsored by large companies, which get exclusive rights to adertise and distribute their products in return for all the cash that they put up. Coca Cola is the largest beverage sponsor of the Olympic games, but McDonald’s McCafe coffee is the primary source of hot coffee in Sochi for olympic team members and journalists because Coke allowed them the rights to sell hot coffee there. The roughly 11,000 media who have descended upon Sochi can get their joe from McDonald’s, vending machines or concession stands that serve nonbranded brew. The only ones who haven’t been partaking are the NBC news team and their supporting staff. NBC has erected the Sochi Starbucks in its cordoned-off area of the Olympic media center. Baristas serve the free java 24-hours-a-day to the roughly 2,500 people NBC says it sent here. The rotating crew is made up of some 15 baristas from Starbucks coffee shops in Russia, who are flown in, set up with accommodations in Sochi, and paid their regular wages while they’re manning the shop. The Sochi Starbucks serves espresso and chai tea latte drinks, but doesn’t serve black coffee or any of Starbucks’ other signature drinks.
NBC staffers say that their Starbucks, which is not open, is a “supplementary facility” and is being used as a morale booster for their team, but it is creating a stir because staffers have been spotted carrying around the green and white Starbucks cups – displaying the Starbucks branding in what should be Starbucks-free areas, since the coffee giant is not a sponsor of the games.
Coca Cola and McDonalds have reportedly said that they are not concerned with this private, pop-up Starbucks because it doesn’t represent a big threat to their branding at the games, but the news media – many of whom apparently have pretty strong Starbucks addictions – have really made this into a big issue and turned those green and white Starbucks cups into a prized status symbol (at least amount journalists) at the games.